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Feeling Ostomistic
Friday, January 19 2018

I had wanted to write about this topic so many times last year, but each time I feared if I did it could somehow come across that I am some angry hermit who doesn't like visitors. 

I don't claim to talk on behalf of all the people who are chronically or terminally sick, I simply am sharing mine (and my husband's) views of how we feel when you have surprise visits. Sometimes surprise or short noticed visits are difficult and stressful, you mightn't realise but there are reasons that make surprise visits difficult.

It could be very easy for you and your loved one who is sick to know how you can better support them and what things or actions don't help them. Finding how they feel about their needs or issues and how you can better help could be a starting point so you both can understand.

It is hard when you're chronically (and also in my case) terminally sick and trying to navigate the waters of keeping up appearances, being social and people visiting often surprised and unnanounced. I know people care and they decide as a last minute thing that they wanted to visit me for the day but don't bother telling me as "it is fun to surprise you" thinking it will make me feel great about myself having visitors, but they don't realise surprise visits cause me a lot of stress and anxiety which I explain below.

Don't get me wrong, I like when people visit but only if 2 conditions are met:
#1. I have notice and #2. Providing I am feeling up for it.

There were a few times over the past couple of years when people had surprised visited me and despite continually asking for no surprise visits, they still happened.

Family and friends were outside waiting and were upset and bothered when I didn't answer the door, because I was asleep and had my phone turned off so I could sleep.

I NEED notice when it comes to having visitors for a few reasons.

#1. I sleep a lot:
I'm not lazy, I am sometimes tired of having to explain and justify my pain or tiredness, but there are days if not weeks or months where I am asleep and resting. I turn my phone off on my bad days or when I have had very little sleep and need un disturbed sleep. So telling me the day before gives me notice for then being able to make sure I am up and ready if I am ready.

#2. My stoma leaks a lot:
My stoma leaks a lot, 95% of the time when I wake I am dealing with leaks. It is really stressful when woken and knowing people are outside knocking and waiting/expecting me. It is something that makes me anxious when I do realise people are waiting for me, as if I am home alone I have to try and deal with a leaking stoma whilist trying to get to the front door quickly (often I miss the postie or courier and have to drive to Coffs to get my parcel). It is also why I get upset when Palliative care would randomly rock up without telling me and then were cranky when I wasn't home to answer the door when I was, I was just in bed asleep... so when my stoma leaks it can take me time to get ready. It means needing to get dressed and cleaned up and clean my linens if needed. It is something that I can need time to be ready, and knowing someone is outside waiting for ages makes me feel more flustered.

#3. I often sleep starkers:
Because my stoma leaks a lot, it is just easier to sleep with either no clothes on or just undies and no PJ pants. Sometimes I wear a top sometimes just undies and no top... so it is less laundry to wash because guaranteed my stoma leaks often in the middle of the night or when I wake and it is hard to have to strip down while trying to do a bag change - all while magically avoiding making a mess! If it is just going to be me home it is best if I know if anyone is coming so that I can have notice and get a chance to get ready. When you surprise rock up it can be hard as my clean clothes could be in the laundry (in the dryer) and I have to try and get through the house with just a dressing gown on and hope if you're outside waiting that you don't catch my streak through the house to get my clothes.... so I need notice if you plan on coming for obvious reasons.

#4. I am often in pain and bedridden:
When Russ leaves for work of a morning he shuts and locks the door as he walks out. So sometimes if I know someone is coming to visit I would ask him to leave the door unlocked and shut. If this is a day when I am barely able to get out of bed it can be stressful knowing someone will arrive and I can't exactly get up to open the door. I was criticised last year (well, 2016 too) when I wasn't much of a host and "don't make people feel comfortable or welcome" because I can't be a host. I think it is hard for people to understand that it is painful and difficult to stand and walk let alone be a hostess. If you come and visit, please have zero expectations of what I am meant to do... don't expect me to go above and beyond to impress you. I am not being rude, you might think I am, but if you wanted a cuppa help yourself. 

On days when I am bedridden I would love visits, providing you are understanding that I am in bed and you can sit in my room chatting with me. But don't expect me to get up and entertain you, defeats the point of being in bed resting. Don't ask "when are you getting up" or "why aren't you getting up" because it makes me want to kick you up the butt if I could because I don't need to justify myself to anyone.

#5. I can't just simply duck out to the shops:
If you just surprise visit me and I don't know you're coming, you very well could be having a cuppa without milk. Some days Russ will make his coffee for the day in his thermos and takes it to work, it is a guzzler for milk. So its very likely that he uses the last of his milk as he leaves for work knowing full well that he has to buy milk when he finishes work in the evening.

If you arrive and we don't know in advance, even if you tell me in the morning, if Russ has already left for work it is too late. I don't have a car and can't drive much anymore, so if you surprised me it would mean I wouldn't have milk or cake or anything and would be a terrible host (again) and I would be feeling so anxious all day if you arrived worried that am I going to hear about this from others about how I am a horrible host... I don't mind if you do turn up unnanouced, just don't be upset if I don't have milk or coffee and can't get to the shops.

#6. I need a chance to cancel:
I always will try and attend something regardless, but there are times when I am in too much pain or phsyically unable to attend. Giving me warning and time in advance of a visit gives me the chance to cancel within reason. If I had notice I could tell you ahead of time to not waste your petrol in coming up if I wasn't up for the visit, I would hate you to be disappointed with your visit or feel like I wasted your time. If you surprise visit me I can't give you the chance to avoid being disappointed with me.

#7. Our house mightn't be visitor friendly:
The entire household chores and running falls mostly on Russ' shoulders. He also works full time. He has a roster system of how he does the house, one day he does the rubbish and kitty litter (and every second day) and some days he would do the bathrooms or vacuum. If you surprise visit us, we will feel embarassed because the kitty litter might be due to be done that day or the rubbish. It can be hard when you surprise visit that I am anxious if you are judging us the entire visit and will go off and tell others about how we live, which has happened, and makes us less inclined to invite you back. 

I could go on about scenarios, there is so many more.

But I do love a visit, just prefer at least a couple of days notice at the very least to make sure the house is ready or that if you're staying the guest rooms are ready. You can visit, please just understand that turning up and surprising me isn't what works best for us. 

I know it is hard to understand, but please do reconsider and try to give us as much notice for when you want to visit. I want to have a nice visit with you but I don't want either of us to feel uncomfortable.

If you do decide to that day or morning to visit, please give me as much notice as you can. If you arrived in Coffs at 9am but aren't visiting until 4pm Don't wait until 3pm to call me! Tell me first thing so I can have time to assess if I am up for a visit or under what terms. If you don't hear back from me or Russ before 4 hours before you're planning on visiting then it might not be the best day. If you don't hear from me, try Russ. 

But if Russ says "today isn't the best day she isn't well" please respect his call.

Don't continue to turn up and then be upset if you're outside waiting for me for a while and I am asleep and don't know you're there until an hour after you've sat out there waiting. If you haven't heard a conifrmation at least 4 hours before arriving on if I am aware you're coming or if it is the right time, than maybe it isn't the most apporpriate time for a visit.

Again, none of this is said to upset anyone, I want visitors I really do - I just don't do well with surprise visits. My health IS declining and I am spending more time in bed, so surprise visits really aren't ideal for us anymore. #sorrynotsorry

As I said, ask your loved one how you can support them and what they need from you, in my case try to avoid surprise or unnanounced visits.

Posted by: Talya AT 10:19 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, January 12 2018

NB: This post contains talk about poop

You always remember your first time doing a milestone. Well today I am celebrating the first time I showered without my bag on and boy I felt like a rockstar afterwards as though doing something mundane but great.... If you know what I mean.

There have been times where I have had a really bad bag leak, I'm not talking about a little seepage from under the wafer, I am talking a leak of cataclysmic proportions like a volcanic erruption or a poosplosion (the latter is real, trust me). My clothes, my linen and my mattress protector needed to be washed and soaked with napisan.

Then there was me, not only were the clothes I was wearing drenched, but so was I.

You know when you go to the beach once but for the next month you find sand everywhere and it gets into every nook and cranny? Well, that is how it is for me when I have a bag leak of epic proportions, except switch out sand for poo and you've got yourself a winner.

So in times of a cataclysmic bag leak it is best to just get in the shower and be hosed off and clean up the mess later.

I have always been hesitant though at jumping into the shower without a bag on, normally I would clean my self up the best that I could while sitting on the toilet and once a new bag is on I would then jump into the shower. Which often meant changing my bag afterwards.

I know what you're thinking, but WHHHHHHYYYYYY?

Well, it was simple....

I was scared.

I have never, in 5 years, showered without a bag on. 

I know many do and many have many times, but I was always hesitant.

One of my fears, with my first stoma (May 2013-feb 2016), was because essentially your bowel is stitched to the outside of your abdomen I was worried about the run off from my shower gel or shampoo/conditioner would affect my stoma or cause irritations that might leave me presenting to the emergency department explaining my issue and people think I am silly for not knowing better. It really used to play on my mind.

So I never did try with my old stoma.

Then this new stoma (feb 2016 to now) is a total pain in the ass, it is retracted and sits under my skin, essentially I poop out of a belly button looking hole. So because of this I was always worried that the run off or chemicals would get inside into my small bowel and cause issues, because, well, soap and shampoo/conditioner shouldn't naturally be in your small bowel... so I worried it was just a recipe for disaster.

But with both stomas I was also worried about the mess side of things, like what if it were active during my shower, what if it were active while I was drying myself and would have to shower again and the circle would go on, and on, and on. I also can't bend over or get down to clean, so I was worried about leaving another chore for Russ to do, so I feel enough a burden when my bag leaks this badly and he has to help clean me up.

So back to my story.

I was in bed asleep all day and woke around 6pm to find my bag leaked, I called for Russ to help me as it was too much for me to manage to clean on my own.

Each time it is this bad he always says "just jump in the shower and hose it off", but every time I say "uhh, no it's okay I will figure it out".

Except yesterday I really had no energy and said "what the heck".

I took my bag off and disposed of it, that way I could clean my stomach better and easier.

I had my first shower without my bag on, it was nice to have water running directly on my belly as opposed to wet towelling and washers. It was nice. I have a handheld shower head which has different notches you can turn it to for different settings, so I put on the more gentle of the settings and didn't hurt.

I was worried about the repurcussions of an active stoma.... but to my surprise there wasn't any disasters. My stoma had probably expelled everything it had stored in there (daily I have bowel blockages due to tumour issues) so sometimes it works all of a sudden and leads to poosplosions like this.


Me post shower, feeling like a freaking rockstar!

Now I know next time when I should just jump in the shower and hose off that it will be okay, that I won't die because my soap chemicals burned an ulcer through my small bowel or that showering with my bag off won't damage my skin if anything it helped it.

Thankfully it isn't everyday that I wake up with a leak like this, some days it is more managable, but it is uncommon to have a day where I don't wake with a leak. There have been a couple of times when a leak like this happened during the day when I was out (once at a wedding and once at a restaurant), so in those moments I can't just hose myself off. 

Have you tried showering without your bag? Were there worries you had too?

I know my worries might have seemed over the top, but I live with bad anxiety and that anxiety rules a large part of my life and very quickly my mind can esculate a situation.

I am used to bag leaks now, but it took a while to not be flustered. At first I would cry every time my stoma leaked and I would be so flustured and overwhelmed, so much that my husband would step in and help me. He always was the calm one. I used to play songs or music when I did a bag change to help distract me. When I got my new stoma and it leaked almost hourly I basically had an ipad set up and would watch something funny to distract me, the steps involved in doing a bag change took almost an hour each time and it just helped the time to pass by being distracted.

Now when it leaks, I am just so focussed on getting a bag back on as quick as I can because sometimes it can take a long time to stop being active long enough to whack the bag on.

If you have a frequent leaking stoma, welcome to the club.

But be sure to see your stoma nurse about why you have a leak and what you can do to prevent it, I know not all leaks can be prevented but sometimes there could be a new or better product for you to try.

With my first stoma I was have regular leaks every few days, I realised that my output was getting under my base plate, so my STN gave me rings/seals to try and it really helped improve the longevity of my bags and I was able to go 7-10 days between changes and my skin was still good... I do miss my old stoma, and it is important to note what worked for me in that situation might not work the same for you.

Of course there isn't anything to be done about this current stoma, and it could be the same for you, but sometimes your nurse or surgeon can help.

Posted by: Talya AT 03:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, December 14 2017

If you have just read part 1, You will have learned: how heat can affect those who are vulnerable or sick or with an ostomy; what are the different heat related illnesses to look out for; what are the symptoms of the heat illnesses; and lastly, how/what to do under each situation.

NB: It is important to remember that this is just an informative guide only and I am not a nurse or doctor, and any individual circumstances or advisement is based on each person's own circumstances. If you have questions to follow it up with your team.

So in this Part 2, I will be sharing tips to help you be more prepared for the weekend

But just in case you haven't read part 1 yet, basically here in Australia we are preparing for an extreme heat wave which will occur over the weekend and most of Australia will be experiencing temps of 35'c-45'c+.


Image from Higgins Storm Chasing, providing a visual of just how much of Australia is to be affected

I have an ostomy, ileostomy to be exact, I also have other chronic co-morbid health issues/illnesses and take various medications which put me at higher risk of sun related illnesses.

I started writing this post a couple of years ago but never finished it in time for it to be relevant, so I am finishing it ahead of this weekend, I only hope it might help someone to be more informed of their own circumstances and to know what to do.

To read part 1, click here:

Also keep in mind anyone you know who might be at a higher risk of suffering with the heat, it could be a neighbour who is elderly and lives alone, or it could be checking in on a friend, just to make sure they are doing okay - as the heat can affect many in different ways.

Part 2: Being prepared and tips to surviving the heatwave

I thought it might just be helpful to share different tips to help you get through the heatwave, if you have your own be sure to comment.

Tip #1: Never leave kids or pets alone in a car
I know this hopefully is common knowledge, but you'd be surprised how many times I have been at the shops and found pets or kids sitting in the car while their parents or owners shopped. Even with the windows down or leaving the car running with the air conditioning going, the car is still going to be hot.

Even on a "cool day" this is a no-no. While the temp outside might only be 25'c the temps inside that car can be 55-70'c! It can rise 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature, so imagine how hot it would be on a day during a heatwave.... scary to think. The damage it can do is increase a child's body temperature, which could lead to brain damage... not to mention what it does to pets too. 

I have seen videos and experiements where a chef has cooked a lamb while inside a car, to a vet documenting what it is like in a car. I do not suggest trying it out yourself, there are plenty of videos and information out on the interwebs about the consequences to leaving pets or kids in cars, which can be deadly.

A child left in a parked car under those conditions for even a few minutes can very quickly become distressed, dehydrated and can die from organ failure. If you see anything, you need to act quickly. If you wait, it can be too late.

What to do if you see a child or pet in the car?
The NRMA advises: You must make a judgment call as to whether it is a life and death situation and you would need to break a window yourself and call an ambulance, or whether you should call 000 and ask for police, who will get there as urgently as they can (and will break the window themselves) and they will call an ambulance.

If the child is clearly distressed, do not wait for help. Instead, break a window and remove the child from the vehicle until help arrives. If you break a window, and the child is simply asleep and it turns out not to be an emergency, it is possible that you could be required to pay for the window.

You don't have to be an NRMA member to call for roadside assistance if it is in less urgent circumstances. Because of the grave danger involved, the NRMA drops everything to respond immediately to calls where a child is locked in a car.

For pets: Visit Just 6 minutes, a site by the RSPCA which outlines that it takes only 6 minutes of a dog left in a car to die. Here is a factsheet of pet first aid if you can rescue the pet from the car and can wait until the owner arrives. Call 000 immediately and ask what you're legalities are if you can smash the window. But some states you can receive a $200k fine and imprisonment for leaving a pet in the car.

Tip #2: Have plenty of water
Water is important for helping you to stay rehydrated, make sure you have plenty to drink. Consider taking a bottle of water to someone who is experiencing homlessness, they might not have adequate access to water, it might not be a lot but it is a nice gesuture to look out for someone who is at high risk of heat related illnesses.

You should drink two to three litres of water a day even if you don't feel thirsty. 

Tip #3: Have electrolyte replacement on hand
If you're like me and have an ostomy and need to replenish lost electrolytes, make sure you have enough to get you through the weekend. I try and have a 1L bottle of sports drinks, I get the powder and mix in the water, and have a few of these made up in my fridge ready. You can consult with your Nurse or dietician over what is the best option for you to replace your lost electrolytes. Due to having no large bowel I am at risk of dehydration, which is worse in Summer and extreme heat. Salts and minerals are vital for your body's functionality.

Also important if you don't have an ostomy but have gastro or vomiting bugs during a heatwave too. Hydrolyte is an electrolyte drink which also comes in the form of icypoles too and can be found from most supermarkets or chemists.

Tip #4: Stay cool
This is important, especially if you struggle with body regulation, you need to find somewhere cool. Air conditioned is preferable, if your home isn't air conditioned maybe ask a neighbour or friend if you could join them, otherwise hit the shops and enjoy their air condiitioning too. If you don't have air conditioning find somewhere cool in your house and put on a fan. You could go to the library, cinema, art galleries, cafes too.

If you are outdoors try and find a nice shaded tree and be sure to keep hydrated.

You could also use one of those battery operated hand held mist fans Kmart have them for $5-$10, or a spray bottle with water in it to help.

A cool tip, get it (lol) I have one of my heatpacks in a zip lock bag and in my freezer. This turns into a cold pack and means I have a cool option too. I get my heatpack/cold packs from Chatterbox City.

Tip #5: Keep plenty of drinks in the fridge prepared
Fill as many bottles as possible and put in the fridge, some could be cordials or soft drinks, but limit the alcohol. Plenty of cool drinks will help keep you cool

Tip #6: Have ice packs or blocks in the freezer
Firstly, ice blocks or icypoles are a great way to keeping cool and hydrated in Summer. You could also freeze water bottles so they last cooler for longer, if you are going to the beach. Ice packs are good to keep on hand in case of first aid and if you need to aid in cooling someone down. See part 1 for how this works.

Tip #7: Keep blinds drawn
This will help keep your house cooler, even if you have air conditioning going, keeping the blinds drawn will help your system to not have to work overtime too. But if you don't have air conditioning it will still help if you have a fan too.

Tip #8: Wear light summery clothing
Avoid wearing lots of layers and wear something light and breathable, this will not only help in keeping your body cool but will aid in your body trying to regulate it's temperature. Avoid wearing dark or black coloured clothing. Clothing light in colour reflects the light better.

Tip #9: Be sun smart and sun safe
Slip, slop, slap. Sunscreen, a hat, sunnies and a shirt are not only safe ways of being out in the sun but also help in preventing melanoma. If you must be out in the sun keep out of the sun as much as possible - during a heatwave you should be minimising your sun exposure. Seek out shade.

Tip #10: Reapply sunscreen often
Even if it is overcast, you can still get burnt and when you're swimming sunscreen washes or rubs off after time, so everytime you come out of the water or as often as indicated on the bottle: reapply. Also if you do happen to get burnt, have some cooling after sun gel in the fridge to help your skin cool down, aloe vera fresh from the garden helps too.

Tip #11: Don't lie in the sun exposed
If you're planning on laying on the beach and reading a book, chances are you could fall asleep and get sun stroke. A heatwave isn't the right time to do this, seek out shelter or shade or plan your trip to the beach on a day where the weather isn't as hot.

Tip #12: in case of a blackout
It is important having items such as a torch, a battery operated fan, extra batteries, bottled water and first aid kit on hand in case of a power outage. Also, wrap medications that need to be refrigerated (such as insulin pens) in foil or place in an heat repellent container with some ice in case of power failure.

Tip #13: Open the house at night or evening if a cool change is forecast
This is self explanatory, but this might help to keep the house cool of a night or the next day if air gets circulating around, remember to draw the blinds early in the morning to keep the heat out and the cool in.

Tip #14: Pets or wildlife
Pets can be particularly vulnerable to the heat. Make sure they have shade and plenty of cool water to last the day. If you live near the bush, consider leaving a bowl or bucket of water out for any Koalas, kangaroos, dogs or cats or other animals that might want water.

Fill a kids clam pool sand pit thing with water and put in the shade and let your dog cool down when he needs to.

Tip #15: Keep your body cool but not freezing
It is important to remember that while you want to cool your body down that you aren't changing your temperature too quickly or suddenly. You could go swimming or lay in a bath if you run the cool water before the hot to cool down. You could set the sprinkler up or a water slide, brings back good memories being a kid and having a tarp and sprinkler on the yard and having a good old time. Just remember to be sun smart too!

Tip #16: Check in on those at risk
Keep a close eye on those most at risk, like the sick, the elderly and the young (a full list of vulnerable at risk perspns is in part 1). Do this at an arranged time at least twice a day. The heat affects everyone differently and adversely, be sure to make sure they have plenty to eat.

Tip #17: Watermelon
Would it be an Aussie summer without watermelon? I love watermelon, it is full of water plus it is a good source of electrolytes too! Make it fun by using cookie cutters to make fun shapes too. If you get sick of water, maybe have some watermelon to help replenish you. Your body will thank you too, it is oozing with benefits too. 

Tip #18: Foods
Enjoy delicious salads and cold meats for dinner, while a hot meal is delicious, it will only make you sweat and feel hot cooking away in the kitchen. But with the heatwave foods like strawberries, cucumbers, watermelons, celery, tomatoes and broccoli and lettuce contain water, which can be benefitial towards your water intake.

Tip #19: Wearing a stoma cover
I get rashes on my stomach under where my bag sits against my skin, especially when it is hot. I found last year if I wore an ostomy pouch bag cover it helped to relieve the rash as it wasn't plastic on my skin and it worked as a barrier between my skin and bag. If you find you get rashes too maybe speak to your nurse as she might have some bag covers or be able to point you in the right direction to where online you can find them. I had a friend make me some. Theres heaps of options if you google too.


My cover a friend made for me

Tip #20: Mashmallows
I find when I am dehydrated or in Summer my output is more watery. It is hard sometimes to keep my hydration up when this happens, but I have some marshmallows and immodium to help thicken my output. Sometimes a watery output is a sign of a blockage too, be mindful of this as you may need medical attention.

☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟ ☟

I hope that you have found these 2 posts helpful on how to prepare for a heatwave with an ostomy, I know they have been long posts but there was a lot of information I needed to share with you. These posts do not replace the information of that of your nurse or doctors, it is a guide to help inform you of the risks and tips on getting through the heatwave safely.

Please be sure to seek medical attention if you require it and don't delay, heat related illnesses are deadly serious.

More Links through my research:
- On how medication/heat affects you:
- Heat related illnesses and what to do: NSW health
- SES heatwave fact sheet
- SES heatwave tips
- ABC heatwave tips
- Know your risk
- Heat and children: NSW health
- Cancer Council Australia slip slop slap seek
- Just 6 minutes pet first aid
- NRMA children in a hot car

If you have another tip, be sure to let me know in the comments below. To read part 1, click here

Posted by: Talya AT 10:15 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, November 27 2017

I am feeling a mix of emotions right now, I am feeling so relieved that the magazine is finally ready to be published and shared with the world... but that part terrifies me!

I feel guilty for the delay, health issues happened, but I still worked hard when I could manage to get the issue out.

I also feel mega proud right now!

I hope you enjoy this issue, there is some great content in there and work for issue 3 is underway (summer/xmas/holidays issue) so if you have any content you want to contribute get in touch asap, or keep an eye on the facebook page too.

If you're a business and wanting to advertise - we offer affordable advertising options and also offer affordable graphic design too. I am also open to collaborations, just get in touch.

I am really hoping you love this issue, there are 2 giveaways too.

In this issue I launch my NEW Stoma Diary, this is an ebook that you can download for FREE  and print or edit via your computer or tablet. It is aimed at helping NEW ostomates navigate the first 6-8 weeks post op and as they approach surgery. I have had my own stoma nurse look over it and she excitedly shared it with her colleagues too.

So sit back with a cuppa and have a flip through.

I have tried to get more male relatable content out there but struggling to get the guys to contribute, anyone that knows me knows I am stubborn and persistent and I endeavour to have more male content in here, I am trying my best so please don't be disheartened.

Finally, If anyone is wanting to join the team on a voluntary position I would love some social media help and develop a content strategy etc, I recently posted about this on the magazine facebook page too.

Anyway, have a wonderful night and I will anxiously await your feedback.

Posted by: Talya AT 12:02 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, June 18 2016

I was asked recently by a couple of readers if I could share some inspiration ideas for storing your stoma supplies that is practical, affordable and also easily reachable.

Then when I presented at a local stoma education day here in Coffs Harbour, I was asked the same question again, so I thought maybe it was best if I did a blog post with some inspiration to how I store my stoma supplies and how a fellow reader stores theirs.

Idea #1: Invest in a small cupboard
When I had my first (original) stoma I was doing my bag changes in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet. In front of the toilet is a massive gap between the toilet and the shower, so I wanted to find a cabinet to put there (like a vanity without the sink) so that when I am sitting on the toilet I can easily reach into the cupboard and grab my supplies and it had a bench space on top so I could rest my supplies and easily grab them. This cupboard I found on a local buy swap sell site for $15!

Idea #2: Invest in a craft storage trolley on wheels
With my new stoma (the one I got back in February) it is rather problematic and bag changes are often lengthy. So more for comfort than anything I now sit on the lounge and do my bag changes (I found my legs were going numb on the toilet after sitting for so long). So now I have a craft storage trolley on wheels set up beside my lounge that has a draw for each supply and it is really easy access... I got this as a gift from my dad (the last Xmas before he passed) but you can pick them up from officeworks for around $60.

 
Image 1: how I organise my supplies | Image 2: a photo from officeworks website 

Idea #3: Invest in a craft storage drawers not on wheels
These you can find at officeworks (or I am sure the reject shop too) and these are a great size to sit inside a cupboard or freestanding. They have 4 generous draws and come either in black and clear or white and coloured. They are also only $29.98 and a much cheaper alternative to the storage trolley on wheels that I have.

 
Image 1 and Image 2 from the officeworks website showing the two styles available

Idea #4: storage drawers to fit in under your vanity
A reader Belinda sent me in her nifty storage idea, she purchased a set of 4 storage drawers from officeworks for $19.98, and it is so convenient for her after she has a shower to just reach into the vanity cupboard and grab her supplies. She said the plastic dividers are movable so it can make the drawer have bigger compartments if needed.

I know it is a personal choice of where and how Ostomate's prefer to do a bag change, and I know some of these inspiration ideas might not be ideal for everyone but they work for me. If you too have a nifty stoma storage idea you would like to share feel free to send me an email or message me via facebook.

Posted by: Talya AT 02:50 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, February 20 2016

For those who have been following my facebook page would know of my struggle the past several months involving a rather aggressive and fast growing Desmoid tumour that was causing me issues and making me sick.

I haven't blogged much about my tumour and experience, just been mirco blogging on my facebook page. But today, I am wanting to write about my most recent experience which involved having the tumour removed and having  a new stoma created.

According to the Desmoid Tumour Research Foundation a definition of a Desmoid Tumour is that these "... are tumors that arise from cells called fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are found throughout our body and their main function is to provide structural support and protection to the vital organs such as lung, liver, blood vessels, heart, kidneys, skin, intestines etc. and they also play a critical role in wound healing. When fibroblast cells undergo mutations they can become cancerous and become desmoid tumors (also known as "aggressive fibromatosis")..."

These tumours can be slow growing or extremely aggressive (which mine are) and can become life threatening when they locally invade or restrict on structures, organs or blood vessels.

I had two tumours (now I have one) both in my mesentery and one is also deep in my abdomen compressing on my kidney and also presses on my stomach and back often causing me pain when I walk short periods or am standing for a few minutes. Hell, even having a shower can quickly become rather painful and tiring! For those at home wondering how big this beast is, it is the size of a watermelon... but this one won't be surgically removed (too risky) and is the one that I have been told will eventually kill me over the next few years and the aim of the chemo is to try and shrink it or stop it from growing before it causes too much damage.

The tumour that was removed last week was the size of a rockmelon (see image below of side on view of my stomach) and has since left me with not only a huge cave-in of my stomach but a new stoma which I am trying to adapt to but it is proving to be a challenge.

Surgeons are usually reluctant to remove these tumours due to their aggressive recurrence and because the more surgery you have the more chances for more tumours to appear, especially when you have a genetic pre-disposition to these tumours caused by FAP.

But, the reason my tumour was removed was because it was dying inside (turning necrotic) and was causing infections, ulcers and fevers and it was decided that it was best to remove the tumour now in hopes of preventing further issues and to make me better enough to FINALLY resume chemo to work on the other beast.

So I have been in hospital since New Years Day back home in Coffs Harbour with the exception of a week where I got to go home, but then I was readmitted there for 10 days while I waited for a transfer to Sydney to have surgery. So I got to Sydney via air ambulance on Tuesday the 9th of Feb and had my surgery on the 15th of Feb.


Me the day after surgery with my trusty Redkite blanket

The surgery went well and I was up walking the next day and had impressed the doctors so much (and myself for that matter) with how well I was doing that they were ready to send me home last Thursday. But my swelling went down on my stomach, and my stoma changed too and my bags no longer were sticking and getting a good seal so it kept leaking.... and leaking... and bloody leaking!

In a 24 hour period from Thursday to Friday I had experienced about 8-10 bag changes, I lost count, and my poor skin was so raw and sore it was quite uncomfortable. Then Friday to Saturday I had almost 24 hours without a leak, then the last 24 hours have experienced about 6 bag leaks and my skin is so sore I just want to cry!

It is so hard adapting to this new stoma, especially when it is so different comparitatively in size. My old stoma I miss so much as it worked and very rarely leaked, where as this one is so small and it is now sitting in a crease in my stomach where I never had a crease before the surgery, but worst of all it has become retracted and is under my skin.

As I said, I am REALLY missing my old stoma and struggling to like or adapt or feel confident with this new one. I know I needed my tumour removed and I know long term it should prove beneficial, but I am struggling to see the ostomisticness right now... which I feel like such a fraud as my blog is called 'optimism with a stoma'... 

I know I have gone through this before, it was 8 weeks of constant leaks before I found the bags that worked for me and then I fell in love with my stoma and the new life and freedom it gave me... but I miss that freedom and confidence and just hope I can perservere and one day will fall in love with this new stoma too.

It was almost three years that I had my first stoma, it had become such a huge part of me and who I am and I know this will sound strange but I do feel a little bit of grief and loss over my stoma. I am not only grieving for my stoma but my independence, dignity, confidence and freedom.

If my tumour hadn't attached itself to my small bowel and stoma I wouldn't have lost such a HUGE chunk of small bowel, and they would have had more bowel to work with to create this new stoma rather than opening me up to dig more bowel out and opening me up for more risks of tumours and complications.

I know it is a process of trial and error, I just have to get through this next bit to fully accept my new stoma.

Posted by: Talya AT 08:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, October 03 2015


Today is World Ostomy Day, a day celebrated worldwide through a social campaign "Many stories, One voice" and using the hashtag #MyOstomyStory.

I first joined the ostomate club back in May 8th 2013 after a 6+ hour operation to remove my large bowel, most of my rectum and to have my permanent ileostomy formed. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I have had to make, I was only 21 when I was told my bowel was showing early signs of turning cancerous and that I only had mere months to have it removed before it had fully turned and spread, which by the point of the surgery I had just turned 22 (read my story here).

While it was hard to go into my surgery excited (or OSTOMISTIC as I put it) as I didn't know what life as a young person (especially a female) would mean after I had an ostomy, but little did I know it was one of the best decisions I could have made.

I am aware that there are many reasons people get a stoma and while these aren't always planned surgeries and can be done in an emergency situation, or that there are some that are permanent and some that are temporary, I think it is important that we celebrate ourselves and our ostomies, as I know without mine I wouldn't be here today. And for that I am eternally grateful.

So in celebration of World Ostomy Day, and for those who have or are considering having one, here are my 20 pieces of ostomy advice I have for you. If you are unsure of what a stoma/ostomy is, you can read about it here in one of my earlier posts!

Stoma tips and life-hacks:
#1. Keep Hydrated
This might be something you hear a lot, but it is so important when you have an ostomy (and even when you don't) that you keep your body hydrated at all times, especially in summer. But when you have an ostomy you are at greater risks of dehydration and dehydration can also cause fatigue. I have also been told by my stomal therapy nurses to drink an electrolyte sports drink at least once a day to help replace the salts and minerals that my body is losing. I drink a 1 litre drink of this a day plus a couple of litres of water. But I know when my body is feeling dehydrated (and especially when my output is more watery I get tired, really shakey and have no energy.
Read: my tips on avoiding a watery output

#2. Your boobs become a valuable asset
An important thing to remember when doing an ostomy bag change is that in order to get the most out of the bag and to prevent leaks you need to a) have a good seal and b) you need your bag to be sticky... so whenever I do a bag change the first thing I do is put the bag I intend to use tucked under one breast, while the seal/mouldable ring (I use coloplast mouldable rings) is placed under my other boob. I sit there for at least 5 minutes before starting the back change process so that it has time to heat the glue. Reason I use my breasts is that my stomal therapy nurse in our first consult told me "placing under your boobs is one of the warmest parts of your body and makes things more stickier". If you don't have boobs you can utilise, read the next tip.

#3. Invest in a hair dryer
In all honesty, the very first time I bought a hair dryer in all my life was the first day I was home after being in hospital from my bowel surgery, I remember sitting on the toilet naked and crying as I was about to do my 10th bag change for the day, I was sore, my skin was sore and I was like "f#$% this, I can't do this anymore". My husband kept asking "what can I do to help" and as it was middle of winter and cold I couldn't produce enough body heat to keep my bags sticking... so my husband had the best lightbulb moment ever and ran over to the supermarket and purchased the most decent looking hair dryer they had (from memory was about $20) and he plugged it in and sat there heating the bags up... they became so much more sticky! I now take my hair dryer everywhere with me!

Other tips to help make your bag more stickier can be read here!

#4. You'll find many uses for your hair dryer
Apart from your hair dryer being used to make your bags more stickier, I also use mine to help dry my bag after a shower especially when I don't need to do a bag change. I am one of those people that can get a few days out of each bag so I just sit there for about 5 minutes after my shower drying my stoma bag and stomach. Also, it is great to use in winter to quickly warm up your body after a shower, I don't know about you but where I'm from it gets so cold in winter!

#5. Avoid foods that cause blockages
One thing you really don't want when you have a stoma is a blockage, trust me when it is not only painful but is rather scary. There is a list of foods that you should avoid because they don't break down or they often would in people who have all their bowel. I remember when I first had my stoma I had a craving for Hawaiian pizza (Ham and pineapple) and imagine my horror when out come pieces of pineapple whole! Same goes for peas, corn, nuts, coconut and some foods like celery and tomato also don't break down. Your stomal therapy nurse can provide you a list of foods to avoid.

#6. Avoid foods that cause winds
Foods, when you have a stoma can a bit of a nuisence whether it is foods that cause blockages (mentioned in #5) or these can cause wind. Wind, when spoken about when you have a stoma is referring to your stoma farting.. and sometimes it can be rather noisy (when you don't want to be noticed for the girl with the farting tummy), or cause your bag to fill up quickly with air (sometimes so much your bag literally pops off or explodes). Although, sometimes stoma farts can't be avoided and just happen. But my husband is so sweet, when we are in a meeting and my stomach farts and I start turning red he just makes noises or coughs to draw the attention away... what a sweet heart!

#7. Avoid drinks that cause winds
Foods aren't the only reason for wind or fart production coming from your stoma bag, what you drink also plays a big part. Foods that are fizzy and gassy or alcohol can also cause wind. I also find after I have had aneasthetic from a gastroscopy, ERCP or from other surgeries that my bag fills up with more gas too.

When out and about:
#8. Take your stoma supplies kit everywhere you go when you leave the house
This should become part of your routine, I have two stoma kits one I keep in my bathroom and the other is a smaller and discreet version I keep in my handbag. Trust me when I say that when you don't have your kit on you, you'll probably experience a bag leak. I know my worst bag leaks in public have been when I didn't have a kit on me and it was horribly noticable through my clothes. Was a horrible and traumatising experience and one that brings me to my next piece of advice...

#9. Always pack a spare change of clothes
I find if I am going to a conference where I will be gone from 8am to 6pm or when I was doing studying on campus at Uni (and can even apply for work situations), have a big day of shopping planned or spending a good part of 16 hours travelling to Sydney to see specialists and driving home, I always take a change of clothes. I at least pack one change of pants, a shirt and a pair of undies. Thankfully, I am a bit of a crazed nut when it comes to my clothes and I have 4 pairs of the same pair of jeggings and they are the most comfortable versatile pairs of pants I have ever owned, so thankfully it just looks like I change my shirt.

#10. Jeggings or any elasticised pants will become a staple in your wardrobe
I wear jeggings... there I ADMIT IT... and I am not ashamed! Thankfully my jeggings actually look like jeans and are almost as thick so you can't really tell, but I found it so uncomfortable to wear pants with zippers and buttons, as I found they always sat RIGHT.ON.MY.STOMA and when my bag would start filling up either the bag would explode and I would be left in an embarrased heap, or  it was rather uncomfortable. I love my jeggings that they are elasticised waist and can wear them up higher over my stoma and much more comfortable.

#11. Baby wipes aren't only used for babies
I know what you choose to clean your stoma comes down to personal preference, I know some prefer to buy some chux sheets and cut up to use as a rag for cleaning your stoma, or others use wet toilet paper.. but personally I prefer baby wipes for a number of reasons. Firstly, they come in handy travel packs that can fit in your handbag; secondly, they are always wet and if you are out and about and don't always have access to water it is handy; thirdly, I am sensitive to how things feel on my skin and find baby wipes are much smoother where I find cloth rags are rough and scratchy. I use huggies shea butter baby wipes and have for years. I also sometimes (when at home) sit the wipes in a small container of warm water to remove a lot of the chemicals and to water it down. But most of the time I don't bother.

Stoma kit advice:
#12. Add scented garbage bags into your stoma kit
For the first couple of bag changes I was relying on using plasic shoppings bags to dispose of my stoma bag, and my husband wanted to try something when shopping one day and found these scented garbage bags that are small in size, and not only do these help to mask the smell of the contents of the bag when doing a bag change, but if you happen to be somewhere that there isn't an immediate place to dispose of in the bin and need to carry it in your handbag, it is discreet and you won't smell it. Just double bag it to ensure one layer doesn't pierce and the contents goes through your handbag.

#13. Invest in some sort of room spray
Have you ever emptied your bag when you're in a public rest room, and you feel so embarrassed by the smell coming from your cubicle that you hide and hope no one realises it was you when you emerge from the change room? Well if you have, you're not alone. So many times I was left feeling embarrassed that things were a bit too smelly and spraying toilet spray (if you're carrying a whole can around in your handbag) can not only be bulky but just as noisy... so I have the perfect pocket sized solution for you that was given to me as a Christmas gift last year, it is a thing called Room spray by scentsy and I have it in my handbag and in my stoma kit and promise there is no more embarrassing moments in public toilets! You can read my review of it here!

#14. Always have at least 3 of each item on hand in your portable kit
I have developed a bit of a rule when it comes to my stoma kit that I have with me in my handbag, is that I have at least 3 quantity of each item in my supply kit (excluding my scissors, stoma powder). So I have three stoma bags (in case I have more than 1 leak or accidentaly pierce a hole when cutting out the hole), I have a handful of adhesive wipes and barrier wipes, a handful of the brava elastic tape (banana wafers I call them), 3 mouldable rings and at least 6 of the scented garbage bags (in case I need to double bag, or a bag gets a hole in it). Here is a guide and checklist I wrote for when packing for a holiday with a stoma!

Storing your supplies at home:
#15. Have a cupboard within a reach of your toilet
I learnt very early on, how much of a hassle it is when you need to do a bag change and you're stuck sitting on the toilet home alone and can't reach your supplies. I was lucky that I have a large bathroom which could perfectly accomodate a cabinet that fits in between the toilet and the shower, which I have filled with stoma supplies. It also acts as a bench/table for me to lay out my supplies I need to use too. And to the untrained eye, guests just think it is a towel cupboard! But I do know not everyone can have a bathroom that is as accomodating, so you could look into getting a portable trolley with shelf space underneath and a flat table like top and you can wheel it into the bathroom when you need to use it, and when it's not in use you can store in the linen cupboard or wardrobe etc.

#16. Never wait until you're on the last handful or box of supplies before you re-order
Postage can always be unpredictable here in Australia, so I find it is always best to have a buffer when you need to re-order your next order of supplies. I find once you are almost at the last box to order your supplies that way you can allow for any delays in postage arriving, or if you have any unexpected bag leaks. 

Mental preparedness and a stoma:
#17. When doing a bag change play some music
I know sometimes I get rather flustered or overwhelmed when doing a bag change and especially found this was the case when I first had my surgery. I now have it as a part of my bag change routine that I have some music playing in the background which helps me to feel calm. Others might find that by playing a movie or tv show on their ipad/TV can be a pleasant distraction too.

#18. For me, my life truly began when I had my stoma surgery
I know that it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking pre-surgery that your life is over and that you won't be able to live a normal life once you have a stoma. I know I was guilty of thinking this way, but my life honestly was given back to me when I had my stoma surgery. Before my stoma, I would be house bound because I had irritable bowel and always needed a toilet near by but also that going to the toilet and eating was a very, very painful experience. I can now enjoy going places, going out to dinner eating foods I once couldn't eat and I have more freedom now. I have control back over my life and my bowel was no longer defining me or what I did in my life. Although there is the chance of bag leaks when out and about and there is more involved when you go 'number 2' these are manageble and long term think of the how much life you were missing out on!

#19. If he truly loves you, having a stoma won't matter
I know sex and a stoma are two taboo subjects, but just because you have a stoma doesn't mean you won't ever be intimate with your partner or husband ever again, and if he loves you he can look past the stoma and not make you feel insecure about having one. Just because you have a stoma doesn't mean you're no longer considered sexy or attractive, you just now have a new adaptation to your body. If you feel insecure or conscious about your stoma during intimacy, there is lacy bag covers you can wear or put a towel over your stomach. But no one if they truly love you will make you feel ashamed for having something that saved your life.

#20. You can still swim when you have a stoma
When I first had my surgery, I was a bit saddened during summer when everyone was going to the beach and enjoying the water or swimming in the pools, I was worried because I had a stoma that this wasn't for me anymore. I was worried the bag would fall off during swimming and would be humiliating, but when I eventually realised I can go swimming I was so much more happier. While I admire those who can rock a stoma and a bikini, I don't quite have the confidence yet to do so (or have a bikini body) but I feel more safer and secure wearing a one piece that has a lining in the stomach area and I feel this gives me more confidence when swimming and isn't a noticable giveaway that I have a stoma. I also love doing water aerobics and find it is much enjoyable for me having a stoma than exercising and sweating and my bag becoming unstuck. 

[end of advice]

While, I have so many more tips to share than just 20, I thought that 20 would be enough for now and to help you get some tips at your fingertips. But if you have some other stoma hacks or tips you wish to share, feel free to comment these below!

Posted by: Talya AT 09:32 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, August 23 2015

One thing that annoys me the most about having a stoma, is needing to carry around my stoma kit everywhere I go (when leaving the house, you know... to prepare for bag leaks as there is nothing more unpleasant than walking around with poo leaking everywhere... trust me) and to be honest I don't really have the room in my handbag to carry it around what with all the bricks that I must be hiding in there, because that thing weighs a ton!

So last week I went away to the Gold Coast to the ProBlogger conference and had one of those lightbulb moments where I don't know why I never thought of this before... and it was converting a toiletry bag (that is rather small) that I got for free when travelling on the Indian Pacific train into a stoma supply kit that was equipped enough to handle at least 3 bag changes....


The small toiletry bag filled with my entire kit!

Surprisingly, it fitted everything I needed from my kit including: 3x Stoma bags (really can't forget those), scissors, elastic tape (or banana stickies as I call them), 3x mouldable rings, garbage bags (scented), my scentsy room spray (a god sent trust me), stoma adhesive powder as well as the barrier/adhesive remover wipes!


All of these items surprisingly fit!

The best thing about this is that it is compact and more discreet, and is the perfect size for my handbag. It also means that it is perfect for on the go whether at school, work or shopping and if you do have to do a bag change just remember to replenish the supplies used and it is ready for the next day out.


See! Told you it all fits (if you doubted me)

I feel less embarrased now as there isn't this big, black and bulky toiletry bag sticking out of my handbag! See the comparison below!


A comparison shot of the sizes of my stoma supply kits! Big difference now!

Honestly wishing I had thought of this years ago! And if you had and I am behind the 8-ball please don't judge me... I realise life simplifying tips and resources eventually (and then I share them with you all).

p.s If you find my tips and blog helpful, please take a moment to vote for my blog in the Heritage savvy bloggers competition. With your help I (and if I win) I am starting a new support website (and app) to help other young people who live daily with a chronic illness. By taking a moment to vote not only will you be helping me to help others but I am confident that this website will change the lives of many (and if you're in Australia you could win $100). Please remember to confirm your vote via clicking the email they send (check your junk/spam too).

 
Posted by: Talya AT 10:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, July 17 2015

NB: This post contains the word 'shit'. If you'll be offended by the use of the word, please stop reading now.

Sometimes when things go horribly wrong, all you can do to keep yourself from breaking down and crying is to just laugh... this was a scenario I found myself in this week... and after all 'shit happens'.. in my case quite literally!

You see, I was invited to Melbourne this week for an exclusive bloggers workshop and was amongst the company of some of my blogging idols and heroes (even being in the same room let along being invited to the same event was pretty huge for me personally).

But what is one thing that can go wrong when you have a stoma... and something that you only ever think you're being overly paranoid about when in public?

........

........

If you guessed having a huge bag leak then you guessed correctly!

I was halfway through a 4 hour meeting/workshop when I quickly ducked off to the toilets only to realise that my bag had started leaking and was causing a bit of a mess. Of course the toilets were all the way down stairs and my stoma kit was all the way up in a seperate room (where everyone's bags and luggage was kept).. so I was sitting in the disabled toilets panicking thinking "shit, what the heck am I going to do?".

See I knew if I was in the toilet too long it might look suscpicious, or it might be even more suspicious if I ran upstairs grabbed my stoma kit, ran back downstairs and spent the next however long doing a bag change... so I realised where it was leaking and the bottom part of the bag that you close up was no longer sticking closed, so I emptied it, gave it a bit of a clean with some handtowels and ran upstairs.

I then did a bit of a McGyver trick and got the elastic tape (or I refer to them as banana wafers) and taped the bag closed.

I returned to my meeting and resumed my seat until the intermission (when everyone was mingling over wine, cheese and appetisers) I raced downstairs with my stoma kit and DID THE QUICKEST BAG CHANGE IN MY HISTORY OF HAVING A STOMA. No joke. It was the quickest change I have ever done, and thankfully no one noticed I had gone to the toilet for a second time in only a short period of time.

But it made me realise that I could have been better prepared and in hindsight I realise how, and I hope to share 5 ways to be better organised for when shit strikes...

5 ways to be better organised for a meeting/work when your stoma bag leaks

#1. Inside your handbag, briefcase or laptop bag have a seperate clutch or toiletry bag, that is dicreet and doesn't look like a toiletry bag and inside have enough for 1 bag change. So when you need to duck off to the toilet just grab your clutch and own how discreet you're being. Even if you don't have to take care of a bag leak, at least then you are prepared for when the moment strikes and you need to transform into a stoma bag changing Ninja!

#2. Always get to your meeting earlier than expected to so that you can allow time to go to the toilet and empty your bag, as nothing is more embarrassing than trying to excuse yourself from the meeting and as your bag is full and you apply pressure standing up your bag more or less bursts and it can be rather embarrassing (this has happened to me before when I was studying on campus).

#3. Always have a change of clothes or underwear with you. This one can be a bit hard if you only have a small handbag, thankfully I have a larger tote style handbag that is big enough to fit a change of clothes in. But if you have a locker at work or school/uni always have a spare change of clothes on hand, so that you are ready for when you have a bag leak and you don't have to go home in poo stained clothes, or sit in soiled clothes for the rest of your shift.
TIP: If the toilet in your bathroom at work has a cabinet under the sink, leave your spare change of clothes wrapped up in a plastic bag or within an enviro bag so that you don't have to walk all the way out to your desk to retrieve your clothes, it can help you be more discreet. The same can go for places where your meeting or workshop is at, leave your stoma kit/change of clothes in the cupboard as a precaution. Just remember to collect it before you leave!

#4. Always carry some scented garbage bags in your handbag and stoma kit, so that if you have to dispose of your bag and there isn't any bins around and you have no choice but to carry your soiled stoma bag in your handbag until you can find a bin to dispose of it in.. at least it will help mask the smell a bit. Just soon as you find a bin, dump that shit (LITERALLY).

#5. If you have had to leave your meeting and people notice you have been gone for a length of time and start commenting (and rather then saying what really happened, unless you want to) just pull out the period card... no one especially men will ask more questions and your female co-workers will just look at you with an empathetic tone that says "I totes get how you feel".

I really, really hope that no one finds themselves in any situation where you have a bag leak in public, let alone at work or in a meeting. But I hope that this guide helps you to be better prepared for the worst case scenario. And by having these measures in place, it will help you to be more calm and collected when the 'shit hits the fan' and also helps put your mind/anxiety at ease.

p.s have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to do a bag change or had a bag leak and it was the worst possible timing? If you are brave, feel free to share your story in the comments below. You can always post 'anon.' by simply writing this instead of your name.

 
Posted by: Talya AT 07:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, January 19 2015

 

I try and be as ostomistic as I can about the whole 'having an ileostomy' thing, and never try and say that I hate it (because truth be told it is SOOOOOOO much better then sitting on the toilet in agony for most of the day). But there is one thing I absoloutley HATE and feel embarrased over, is the stench that is left behind when I empty my bag.

If you have read my post of the 10 things they don't tell you when you get an ileostomy, you would know my 4th tip was that "your output will smell horribly", which it does. I made a comment about how you should "be prepared to have many cans of air freshner, and one in your handbag" for when your out and about.

So I must admit I have tried the whole taking a can of toilet spray with me in my handbag when I go to the shops, and boy has there been some awkward stares when you are at the checkout line rifling through your handbag to find your wallet when out falls a can of toilet spray or as my husband likes to refer to it as "the stink be gone can", and you have to try and justify THAT YOU ARE NOT STEALING TOILET SPRAY... let's just say shit gets really awkward.

So what if I told you that I have found the perfect addition to your stoma kit, that not only will it not cause awkward or embarrasing stares, but will at least help you retain some of that dignity (that is otherwise flushed away).

Introducing the Scentsy Room Sprays!

For Christmas, my husbands mum and sister had made up this cute little basket filled with all these delicious smelling products, and one of them was a Bora Bora Blossom Room Spray. So when my mother-in-law mentioned well gave examples of times where it has come in handy and after seconds of spraying the mist the house smells so much nicer and the smell has completely faded away...

So of course my darling husband pipes up and says "Oh that would be awesome so you no longer stink up the house" (gees thanks Russ I love you too) it actually gave me a great idea for its use.

So off I went to add this spray to my stoma kit, and it is amazing! I spray it just before I empty my bag when in a public toilet (or at someone else's house) and then again once I have finished to be safe. And I love it!

It is compact and not bulky, it is discreet in the sense that it looks kind of like a body mist or perfume, AND IT IS SILENT!! No more of this "shooooooosh" sounds from the toilet cublicles as I spray the smell away, and no more waiting until everyone leaves the toilet before I emerge to avoid those judgemental stares!

Best of all, it is only $12.25 and comes in a 80ml bottle, and as you only need a couple of sprays/squirts at a time, you won't run out in a hurry!

Oh and did I mention it comes in a large variety of scents too?

Seriously though, this is my favourite item in my stoma kit!!

 
Posted by: Talya AT 01:01 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, January 18 2015

 

Are you looking at returning to studying on campus this year?
Do you have a stoma and worried about if this will affect your studies?

Well believe it or not that was some questions I had this time last year. I had just found out I had been accepted into a course I have been wanting to study for a few years and was worried how I could manage full time study as I now had a stoma.

So I thought I would share with you some tips/products I found that helped make my life easier when studying on campus, and a few of you have been emailing me this same question, so thought I best do a post for you all.

Sharing my 10 tips that made studying on campus with a stoma easier!

#1 Meet with the course coordinator or support officer BEFORE the study term kicks off
For those who know me, know that I am a very stoic person (some say stubborn) and I haven't quite grasped the concept that IT IS OKAY to ask for help. 

I started studying last year and tried to get through the first few weeks before I realised that I needed help. I was finding that for 4 out of 5 days each week we would be in a classroom that was small and it was cramped, but I was in pain for 6 hours a day because of the desks. There were some desks that sat right at the height of my stoma and really pushed against my stoma all day and it was uncomfortable and painful, and don't get me started on the chairs. The chairs were cutting the circulation off in my legs/feet which since I first was diagnosed with pancreatitis I have had issues with my feet swelling, so this only added to the pain and discomfort felt each day in the classroom.

After a few weeks I worked up the courage to meet with the course coordinator to see if there was any chance that there could be accomodating desk and chair in the room that I can use. I had these arranged, but the people who were in my class became a bit judgemental about it all so I felt uncomfortable to return to class (so I instead changed to an online campus as it became too upsetting).

So I suggest before you start studying on campus, that you meet with someone and ask to check that the desk and chairs in the room are accomodating to you having a stoma and won't cause you any discomfort. It would have been much easier at the beginning of the course for me if this was in place to remove people asking questions later on.

#2 Find the right bag/backpack
One thing that is super important when studying on campus is making sure that you are supported in not only facilities at the campus but also in having the right and essential items to help you get through the day.

I am sure by now your doctors and stomal nurse has discussed the importance of hernia prevention and practising techniques that will help eliminate any chance you get a hernia, after all having a stoma will increase your risk of developing a hernia.

One way you can do this is by finding the right backpack that not only is comfortable to have on your back, but is also at the right height too. You want a bag that doesn't cause your back to hunch forward.

Some tips to remember when choosing a backpack:
* Make sure the bag has 2 even straps, this helps to distribute the load evenly. Bags with 1 strap can cause damage to your neck, shoulders and back.
* Choose a bag that fits you and is appropriate for your body size (weight and height), the bag should rest comfortably on your back
* The bag should have adjustable straps and buckles to allow the bag to be lowered or heightened into the right position
* The centre of mass should be at weight height not higher or lower
* Opt for a bag that has a waist belt, so that your bag can be closer to your body when moving/walking to prevent injury or strain
* Straps should be padded and wide to help distribute the weight, also easier on your shoulders and waist

#3 Don't have a heavy backpack
So we all know what happens when you are studying whether as an adult student or as a student in school, that you have so much to carry each day between books, lunch box/drink bottles. But if you carry to much in your backpack not only will you likely cause yourself back damage but also run the risk of herniating your stoma/abdomen (remember that after all you DO need to be wary).

Last year, I knew I didn't want to run the risk of a hernia or damaging my back while having my backpack full of text books and what not, so I invested in getting a zippered folder that had a binder inside to hold my books in place, and also had enough space for my text book too. I carried this around with me and it wasn't too heavy either and it meant there was less in my backpack. I got mine from PB TEEN in the US and had it shipped to Australia, as I had spent a good 2 weeks searching for one that I liked in stores and online in Australia and kept finding boring plain black leather ones.. don't get me wrong if you like that style then that is great, but I like things to be a bit of fun and eccentric like me. Postage was great and I had my new folder within a week or so.

If you don't fancy carrying a zippered folder (compendium) around, you can always look into a backpack on wheels so you can wheel it around... also helps remove the heavy backpack issue too!

#4 Packing your stoma supplies
There is one thing you should always do, and that is every time you leave the house make sure you pack your stoma kit. The last thing you want to do is be on campus stuck without your supplies in the even that you had a bag leak or accident. I got a nice toiletry bag made for me (but you can purchase these anywhere, even an insulated lunch box works perfect) and inside have enough supplies for a couple of bag changes. I also have some scented garbage bags (read my review/reccomendation here) and also a clean pair of undies in case the others are accidentally soiled.

If you are unsure of what to pack in your stoma kit, download our FREE packing checklist guide here!

#5 Invest in a diary
One thing I have learnt the last couple of years is that my memory IS NOT what is used to be. I have found it only got worse after the 6 month course of being in a medically induced menopause, and even noticed that with having a stoma I have troubles remembering things which could be linked to being anaemic or deficient in vitamins and minerals (as my body is not absorbing these as much anymore)... Although my husband is somewhat disappointed that I still recall enough to win a disagreement and to prove my point.

But I found by having a diary I could write down things I needed to do for each class and as homework, but also is useful to write in reminders for assignments too! 


I got this really pretty and thorough diary from Typo and it is so elegant that the pages are lined with gold. Just a lil' bit fancy (really need to pronounce it like fun-cay, you know how some like to call target tarjay).  I think this was around $30 or less.

#6 Pack your lunch each day
I know how tempting it is to have that little bit extra sleep of the morning, and just how much of an inconvenience it is to pack your lunch when you can just buy it from the cafeteria/canteen on campus.. 

Well not only can studying be costly, but if you can help reduce costs each day, your wallet will be better off! And besides if you pack your own lunch not only do you know what is in your food, but you can save time standing in line trying to decide what you can eat or what won't disagree with your stoma.

Wanting some great and nutritious lunch box tips and ideas? Then read this article by Mum Central, which has 5 fresh ideas for your lunchbox.

#7 Keeping your lunch and snacks fresh
If you have read the above article and are planning on packing some fresh food, or foods like yoghurt you want to keep refridgerated and cold, you would be needing to ensure that your lunchbox stays cold enough.

We all know that foods that sit in lunch boxes can sometimes not look or be as fresh when it comes to lunch time if the lunch box is not kept cooled enough, which can also lead to causing upset stomachs (which we don't want).

So what if I told you that I came across this amazing product last year that was a refridgerated lunch bag that literally kept my food cold, fresh and appetising for up to 8 hours! Would you believe me? Well you better, because the Fridge-to-go lunch bags (as the name suggests) acts as a fridge on the go. It is pretty innovating how it works, by putting these panels (look like lunch box ice cubes) in the fridge over night, then putting in the lunch bag in the morning, and it keeps your food cold all day! Seriously was the best product I had last year to help me survive on campus study! They also have a FREE ebook on fresh lunch box ideas if you subscribe to their mailing list too!

Trust me when I say there is nothing worse than a  yucky, hot, salad at lunch time.

I purchased the mini fridge cooler bag as it had more room and loved it!

#8 Keeping hydrated through the day
One thing that I know I need each day is a litre of electrolyte sports drink (like Maxx, gatorade, poweraide etc) to help replace the fluid and electrolytes lost throughout the day. 

When I started studying on campus last January it was so hot around 36' each day, the classrooms had no airconditioning and everyone was sitting literally shoulder to shoulder with some sharing a tiny desk. It was hot, it was gross and it was making me feel sick. Read some earlier posts on hot to manage living with a stoma in summer heat here.

So for me there is nothing more refreshing than a nice, cold beverage on a hot day, so rather then having to freeze my drinks to ensure they stay cold all day (which sometimes when you NEED them they are still frozen) I purchased the wine cooler fridge-to-go bag, which fits my 1LTR electrolyte drink in perfectly! So not only is it good for keeping wine cool but also drink bottles too!

I remember waiting at the bus stop at 3.30PM after classes had finished for the day, and pulled out my drink bottle and it was still cold and felt refridgerated. It was so REFRESHING!

#9 Don't drive each day either take public transport or car pool
One thing that helped me to be more organised each day was taking the bus to uni/TAFE. Not only did it save on the stress of trying to find a car park than walking a mile to get onto the campus, but it also helped me to save money on petrol costs. 

#10 Purchase a power bank for your phone
If like me you use your iPhone (or other phone) all the time, then you would know how frustrating it is when the battery runs low and you are waiting for an important phone call/email/text.

I went into my local electronics store and purchased a power bank charger for my phone, which has been an absolute lifesaver on a number of occasions! Simply charge it up the night before, then put it in your bag when you leave the next morning. When your phone starts running low on the battery grab the USB cable and plug one end into your phone and the other the charger, and watch in awe as this contraption with NO power source is charging your phone up!

I purchased mine (a pink one) from JB-HIFI for around $40 and I take it everywhere I go when I am out and about, and when my phone starts looking tired and sick I just plug it in and give it a fresh bout of life!

I really hope that these 10 tips that helped me to study on campus with a stoma help you too!

P.S if you have a question or issue you want help/advice on, please send through an email from my website or a message via my facebook page. If my blog has helped you in any way please let me know!

 
Posted by: Talya AT 08:29 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, December 17 2014

 

We all know that one person in the family that no matter where you go, they always forget to pack something!

In my family I am sure they all would say that person is me... I swear sometimes I would forget my head if it wasn't screwed on (lol).

I went away last weekend and in a rush packed my overnight bags and restocked my stoma supplies.....

I was in a rush and was rather fllustered and thankfully didn't have a bag leak as I just realised I grabbed the entirely wrong stoma bags!

So it got me thinking how many other people with Stomas are finding themselves stressed, flustered and overwhelmed in time for Xmas, and especially those who are heading away for the holiday season.. so I decided I would create a check list printable for you to download, print off and pack your bags.

Just like Santa, we need to make a list and check it twice!

I know for me personally, I tend to only get bag leaks when I am away from home and become stressed. This is my first Xmas with a stoma that I will be going away, and as I won't be just able to zip back home to grab a supply if I do get a bag leak I need to make sure I am prepared first!

If you too need a checklist of what supplies to pack, to help make things more enjoyable and easier this Christmas, then click here or on the image to download your FREE checklist.

If you think I have forgotten or left anything off the list please let me know!

Have a lovely Christmas, and don't forget to enjoy and cherish those loved ones in your life.

 
Posted by: Talya AT 01:48 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, October 29 2014

Sometimes it can be frustrating when you spring a leak (a stoma bag leak that is, not a spring onion) or when you're trying to do a bag change and your bags just won't stick!

I have 5 handy and quick tips to getting your bags to stick better and help you to prevent a leak!

1) The very first thing I do when I am about to do a bag change is to grab one of my bags (don't cut it yet if it isn't a pre-cut), fold it in half and place under your boob. No joke- this works wonders! Because the glue on the stoma bags is more stickier the warmer it gets this is a great way to warm your bag up which means make your bag more stickier.... I KNEW having huge boobs would come in handy one day hehe

If you're a guy I don't think this step ^^ will apply to you (sorry)

2) Grab a hairdryer and put the settings on a high heat and sit there for about 5 minutes heating the bag up. Make sure that you are heating up the wafer part that will stick around your stoma. You don't need a fancy hair dryer, I just bought a cheap one from a department store and it works a treat!

3) Using your adhesive remover wipes (I love my Coloplast ones) ensure that all of excess adhesive residue from your last bag change is removed.  I then using a wet washer will give the skin and area a bit of a wash (trying to not use a lot of soap as this can make bags not stick). Also make sure that the area is completely dry!

If you use Stoma adhesive powder, it is important to make sure that you wipe off any excess powder where your bag usually sticks, as this can also stop the bag from sticking. I use my skin barrier prep towlettes (like the adhesive removing ones, also coloplast) to prepare my skin for the bags and to remove any excess powder etc.

4) When I am ready to put the bag on I get both hands and kind of put them around the stoma (one on either side of the wafer plate) and press firmly and hold for a while. This adds extra (natural) heat to the bags and helps to make them a little more stickier.

5) To create some extra reinforcement of the bags I use 'banana wafers' (correctly known as elastic tape) and I use two of these to help secure the bags. One wrapping around the bottom and sides, and the other wrapping around the top and sides.

Those are my 5 quick tips to make your bags more stickier!

If you have some quick tips that you've found to make bags more stickier share them below!

Ostomistically Yours,
Talya x

 
Posted by: Talya AT 08:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, October 28 2014

Guess you never thought you would hear the words "Garbage bags and why you should love them" strung together in a sentence before......... Well that was until you heard me say it!

Now... before you get all uppity about how bad garbage bags are for the environment and how I am a horrible person for suggesting you should love them.. but if you let me explain why I have a new fondness for garbage bags, you will understand.

Over the last 18 months I sometimes get overwhelmed when doing a bag change due to the smell (which I imagine is a pretty normal thing to experience) and partly why I don't enjoy the bag changes is because of the smell.

But the other day when my husband was doing the grocery shopping, he had a pretty thoughtful gesture and decided he would buy me some garbage bags to try for when I do a bag change.

Up until that point I had been using a plastic bag (and thoroughly check for holes) and proceed to do the bag change.

But he (my husband) didn't just stop to get any ordinary garbage bags... he got small purple lavender scented garbage bags.

You wouldn't think something so.... boring would be quite effective!

I love purple and lavender and I honestly don't notice the smell when I am doing a bag change.

So HUGE thank you to my hubby for being so thoughtful and thinking to get me to try scented purple garbage bags!


These are the pink rose scented bags

OH and if you were wondering what type they were, they are 'Multix Kitchen Tidies' and I purchased them from Woolworths for $2.66 which works out at 10c each!!

Keep an eye out for more Ostomistic Tips and Advice.

Ostomistically Yours,
Talya

 
Posted by: Talya AT 08:58 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, May 05 2014

 When your BAG gets WET do you find it FRUSTRATING with how long it takes to dry?

Well I have found the PERFECT solution for you!

I used to like swimming and enjoying nice relaxing spa baths, but always found when my bag got wet
that it would take FOREVER to dry and no matter how much I patted towel dried, my bag just wouldn't dry!

I often would be sitting there for HOURS patting my bag dry and would become so frustrated and
would walk around with a small towel wrapped around my bag/stomach because I just gave up!

Now I know what you are thinking 'Why don't you just change your bag?'.

Well good question BUT if I changed my bag EVERYTIME I showered, I would soon quickly run out of supplies.

Well my conundrum and search for a solution happened recently when I started doing 'Met Aqua'
which is similar to water aerobics but much more fun!

So after my first class I found that although the rest of me was dry I had to drive home from the
class with all this towel padding so my clothes wouldn't get wet...

Well no matter what I tried I just couldn't find a fast drying solution...

That was until I came across an amazing, innovative and eco friendly product
that is designed right here in Australia!

Introducing the Wovii- The Super absorbent
and fast drying towel!

I took my wovii along to my swim class today and within seconds of drying my skin
was dry and I wrapped my hair (which is pretty thick) in the towel for a minute or so
which was also dry AND best thing of all...
THE TOWEL WAS STILL DRY!! 

Normally towels are so heavy when they are wet
but this towel is so absorbent and so light!

When I got home I got the wovii and wrapped it around my stoma bag for around 5 minutes
and it is completely dry! Even the adhesive banana wafers were dry too!

I am so happy to have found this amazing towel and it seriously will make my life
and living with an ileostomy so much better!

I purchased a Wovii taster bundle to get the different sizes.
The hand towel I used to dry my stoma bag
.

Their colours are so beautiful! I already have my next colour purchase in mind!

IF your order is over $50 your post is FREE (Australia Wide) otherwise it is a low price of $4.95!

Ostomistically Yours,
Talya xx

*Feeling Ostomistic is not paid for reviews, and often will offer reviews on products I have purchased if I feel strongly about the product and of the use that it has. If I publish a review it would only ever be a positive review about why I love and personally reccomend the product. In some cases products are received in exchange for a review, but mostly I have purchased the products*

 

 

 

 
Posted by: Talya AT 11:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, January 09 2014

When you are adjusting to your new stoma it is often quite overwhelming when you do your first few bag changes. 

I have found over time that the best way to making bag changes easier and less overwhelming is to be organised.

For the first few months I was using a little side coffee table that I had in my bathroom and would have my supplies stacked underneath it.
I knew this wasn't the best solution I needed so I searched for a cabinet that had shelving and was also more discreet (especially for when guests come over and use the bathroom).

I was pretty lucky to find a cupboard on a local selling site for only $15!! A complete bargain right! This was the most perfect find as it fits perfectly in the space between where I sit to do my bag changes and the shower. I have it set up so that when I am seated I can easily lean into the cupboard and grab the supplies I needed.

I also still use the little side table and have it beside where I do my bag changes so that I can have easy access to my supplies!
 

Posted by: Talya AT 02:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, April 02 2013

You might be wondering what an ostomy is, and I will try my best to describe from my knowledge and research. Often you will hear or read ostomy and stoma that are used but have very different meanings. Most commonly you would have heard before 'colostomy'. Until my surgery I assumed an ileostomy was a colestomy. So I found it great to know the difference.

An ostomy refers to the surgically created opening in the body for the body's natural waste to be eliminated.

stoma refers to the actual end of the small bowel or large bowel or ureter that can be seen protruding through the abdominal wall.

I live with a permanent ileostomy. This means the end of my small bowel (ileum) is brought to the surface of my abdomen to form a stoma, I had all of my colon removed.

There are also other ostomies that you could have relevent to your circumstance and case. Such as a:

  • Colestomy which refers to a surgically created opening (stoma) of the large bowel/large intestine/colon. A colestomy is created when a portion of the colon or rectum is moved and the remaining colon is brought to the abdominal wall. 
  • Urostomy a surgical proceedure that diverts urine away from the defective or diseased bladder.

I hope that this helps you to understand the difference between a ostomy and stoma and the different preceedures requiring the use of an ostomy and a stoma.

Posted by: Talya Goding AT 09:53 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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~  Living with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - Effects of FAP  ~

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Talya Goding - Feeling Ostomistic   talya@feelingostomistic.com.au  |  0447 426 860

Thank you for stopping by Feeling Ostomistic. It has taken a lot of courage to share my story and I ask that you show me and my site/blog respect and courtesy. Views expressed in this blog are my own and I am not a nurse or a doctor. If you need medical advice please seek your medical practitioner.

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